Royal Family:

The Hashemite royal family is interwoven into the life of Jordan, having established the modern state in 1921. It is impossible, therefore, to understand the fabric of Jordans modern history without some knowledge of the royal family. The Hashemites, or Bani Hashem, are descendants of the Arab chieftain Quraysh, a descendant of the Prophet Ismail, himself the son of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). Quraysh first came to the holy city of Mecca during the second century CE. The first generation of Quraysh to rule the city came six generations later, when Qusayy bin Kilab ascended to the leadership of Mecca in the year 480 CE. The name Hashem is actually that of Qusayys grandson, who was the great-grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Hashemites are thus the direct descendants of the Prophet through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali bin Abi Talib, who was also the Prophets paternal first cousin and the fourth caliph of Islam.

Ali and Fatima had two sons: Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein. The direct descendants of their eldest son, Hassan, are known as Sharifs (nobles), while the descendants of Hussein are called Sayyids (lords). The royal family of Jordan, the Hashemites, is descended through the Sharifian branch of lineage.

Various Sharifian families ruled over the Hijaz region in Western Arabia between 967 and 1201 CE. Moreover, King Husseins branch of the Hashemite family ruled the holy city of Mecca from 1201 CE until 1925 CE, although they recognized the sovereignty of the Ottoman sultan in 1517. This makes King Hussein the head of the Hashemite family which, in addition to being directly descended from the Prophet, also represents over one thousand years of rule in the area, and almost two thousand years of recorded presence in the holy city of Mecca.

During the Great Arab Revolt of 1916, King Husseins great-grandfather, Al-Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca and King of the Arabs (later he also became known as King of the Hijaz), led the liberation of Arab lands from their domination by the Ottoman Turks. After freeing the lands of Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and the Hijaz, Sharif Husseins son Abdullah assumed the throne of Transjordan and his second son Faisal assumed the throne of Syria and later Iraq. The Emirate of Transjordan was founded on April 11, 1921, and became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan upon formal independence from Britain in 1946.

 

Sharif Hussein bin Ali
(1853-1931)

Emir of Mecca and King of the Arabs, he was the last of the Hashemite Sharifians that ruled over Mecca, Medina and the Hijaz in unbroken succession from 1201 to 1925. Sharif Hussein is best known for launching the Great Arab Revolt in June 1916 against the Ottoman army. During the First World War, the Turkish dominated Ottoman Empire sided with the Central Powers against the Allies, allowing the Emir of Mecca to seize the opportunity to liberate the Arab lands from Turkish rule by allying himself with the British and the French. His objective in undertaking the Great Arab Revolt was to establish a single independent and unified Arab state stretching from Aleppo (Syria) to Aden (Yemen), based on the ancient traditions and culture of the Arab people, the upholding of Islamic ideals and the full protection and inclusion of ethnic religious minorities.

Arab nationalists found in the Hashemite commanders of the Great Arab Revolt the leadership that could realize their aspirations, and thus coalesced around them. Sharif Husseins sons Emir Ali, Emir Abdullah (King Husseins grandfather), Emir Faisal and Emir Zeids forces led the Arab Army against the Turks. While the colonial powers of Britain and France denied the Arabs their promised single unified Arab state, it is nevertheless testimony to the effectiveness of the Great Arab Revolt that the Hashemite family secured Arab rule over all of modern Jordan, most of the Arabian peninsula and Syria

 

His Majesty King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein
(1882-1951)

 

King Abdullah, the founder of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, will always be held in the pages of history as a unique and monumental figure during the newly emerging era of the contemporary Arab World. Mentor to his grandson, the late King Hussein I of Jordan, Abdullahs character constituted a blend of the traditionalist and the modern. His public career was predominately forward-looking and modern. This is exemplified by him being one of the first Arab leaders to adopt a system of constitutional monarchy during the early years following the formation of his country, and the need he felt - from his experience - for the participation and representation of his people.

Under the Hashemite banner and his fathers inspiration, Abdullah led the Arab forces of the Great Arab Revolt, with his brothers Ali, Feisal and Zeid against the Ottoman occupational forces. By the end of the First World War, they had liberated Damascus, modern Jordan and most of the Arabian peninsula. Following this conquest, Emirs Abdullah and Feisal assumed the thrones of Transjordan and Iraq respectively. Transjordan was formed on April 21, 1921 when King Abdullah established the first centralized governmental system out of a mostly tribal and nomadic society. Over the next thirty years, he focused on nation-building thus developing the institutional foundations of modern Jordan. With great purpose and vision, he sought autonomy and independence; establishing democratic legitimacy by promulgating Jordans first constitution in 1928 and holding elections for its first parliament in 1929. Also during these three decades, the King presided over a series of Anglo-Transjordanian treaties culminating in the March 22, 1946 Anglo-Transjordanian Treaty, ending the British mandate, gaining full independence and changing the name of the country to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, King Abdullahs Jordanian Arab Legion was instrumental in the defense of Jerusalem and parts of Palestine. The Jordanian army displayed courage and heroism, and was widely acknowledged for its high level of professionalism, tenacity and bravery against a force superior in number and armament. The Arab Legion successfully routed the fortified Jewish forces from the Old City and secured East Jerusalem despite the subsequent determined but ineffectual Israeli offensives to remove the Jordanian Arab Legion. The war came to an end in mid-July, as a series of armistice agreements were signed between Arab parties and Israel at the Rhodes Conference. Jordan did not participate at Rhodes, but concluded its armistice with Israel directly on the ground.

On July 20, 1951 King Abdullah traveled to Jerusalem for his regular Friday prayers with his young grandson, Hussein. The King was assassinated by a lone gunman on the steps of one of the holiest shrines of Islam, and the jewel of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque. Miraculously, the bullet meant for Hussein deflected off a medal he was wearing, thereby saving his life. King Abdullah rests in the Royal Tombs in the Royal Court in Amman.

The murder of King Husseins grandfather had a profound influence on his life in terms of understanding the importance and inevitability of death, as well as a sense of the importance of his duty and responsibility in the years to come. In his autobiography, Uneasy Lies the Head, King Hussein recalls how three days before that fateful day in Jerusalem, his grandfather turned to him and said, "I hope you realize, my son, that one day you will have to assume responsibility. I look to you to do your very best to see that my work is not lost. I look to you to continue it in the service of our people." The young Prince promised solemnly that he would, to his best ability, carry out his duty. However, the King and the Prince could not have known how short was the time ahead.

 

His Majesty King Talal bin Abdullah
(1909-1972)

 

King Talal bin Abdullah assumed the throne shortly after the martyrdom of King Abdullah on July 20, 1951. However, and due to health reasons, he abdicated the throne less than a year later, on August 11, 1952, in favor of his eldest son Hussein, the heir apparent. During his tenure, King Talal did much to further the previously strained relations between Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He was also largely responsible for the development of a new, liberalized constitution. This document made the government collectively, and the ministers individually, responsible before parliament and was ratified on January 1, 1952. The smoothness with which the reins of power were transferred through Abdullah, Talal and Hussein was remarkable, indicating the extent to which King Abdullah had succeeded in putting the Jordanian monarchy in constitutional order.

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